Over the years I’ve seen proof positive of the dynamic relationship between mind and body. Primarily, how positive thoughts can calm the nerves when under physical stress and even more dramatic, actually manifest healing where traditional medicine has failed.
What I haven’t fully appreciated is how the relationship works in the opposite direction, programing the body to influence how one thinks and behaves.
For years I have advocated breathing exercises to reduce stress and I do put credence in confidence builders like ‘dressing for success’ but recently I’ve learned more about the chemistry behind the benefits of employing ‘body power;’ literally controlling the body into poses that generate psychic intensity.
In doing research on techniques to give a student more self-assurance when taking mid-terms and final exams I happened upon a 2012 TED talk by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy. She reported how simple “power poses” such as the clenched fists and raised arms of a winning athlete increased belief in one’s personal power to perform. Another example was a slide of Wonder Woman, defiantly standing akimbo, hands on the hips and elbows turned outward.
By posing for just two minutes – essentially making yourself bigger by stretching your body – the simple practice was shown to increase testosterone levels and decrease the amount of the stress hormone cortisol. The practical application: power pose before an important event to increase self-confidence and make a formidable impression.
Perhaps the ultimate in demonstrating how body language can influence behavior is the case of the Bluehead Wrass fish. When predators reduce the number of males in a swarm upsetting the balance of the school, females respond to the stress with a flood of hormones that change their sex to male!
When facing a social challenge, striking a power pose can push you past ‘faking it’ to literally ‘being it.’